Paul, from Group 216, shares what a day in Lourdes is like: "Easter Sunday! I stupidly asked for the early wake up from the trusty helper that’s on brew duty in the mornings. 7am? Ugh.
I jump out of bed and get ready for the day. I then go and wake up my child – he’s reluctant to get out of bed already and it’s only Sunday. What’s going to happen by Friday!? I help my child to get showered and dressed (something I wish I had done after I’d got myself ready, because I’ve pretty much just had another shower, just fully clothed this time!)
All ready and dry, we head down to breakfast – we’re not the first, but certainly not the last! We have a breakfast of cereals and bread and have a quick 10 minutes to get all of our things ready before we have to go out. (I learnt the hard way in my first year as a helper; now I always carry a spare set of clothes for child (and myself!), waterproofs for us both, tissues, wet wipes, an emergency entertainment item (colouring book or similar), and some throat lozenges in my bag with me).
We wait for the rest of the group and then head off to the Regional Mass together. This is always a special part of the week for me, as it’s the first chance we have to celebrate mass together as a region in Lourdes. It always kick starts the week with an injection of music, energy, love, laughter and worship. As a musician, I feel like I’m a real part of the event – and it’s especially good to have a front row seat when the children participate in the liturgy.
After Mass, we have a short walk around the Domain and have a look inside some of the Churches. We then head back to the hotel for lunch. Mealtimes are always interesting affairs in Lourdes. The combination of strange French food, an unimpressed child and a certain amount of plain confusion as to what is on the plate in front of you, is one that you will never see emulated anywhere else. We muddle through and are told by the Group Leader that we have fifteen minutes to be ready before we have to leave for the afternoon.
In a whirlwind, we meet the rest of the group in the foyer and head out into Lourdes for a walking tour. To keep the pace going between places, we sing some songs. It’s always more difficult at the start of the week, because the children don’t know the words. They just think you’ve gone bonkers. Just wait until Tuesday - they won’t know what’s hit them! They’ll be singing 'Rise and Shine' all over the place.
After the walking tour, we take a well deserved rest in one of our favourite cafés. We sing some more songs and decide to head back to the hotel before the rain starts – the weather in Lourdes can be so unpredictable. We make it back to the hotel with half an hour to spare before the Group Leader wants to talk to us all about some general housekeeping rules. We’ll then have another half an hour or so before dinner. All we seem to do in Lourdes is eat!
After another interesting mealtime, we go and get changed for our fancy dress party! The girls have done a fantastic job preparing the party and getting the children excited, so its only fair we get our costumes on! I am dressed as a pirate and my child has a costume that resembles Spiderman. I have the sneaky suspicion it’s actually pyjamas, but we’ll go with it anyway! We had a great time at the party, now for bath and bed. Or maybe just bed.
We meet as helpers just after the children have gone to bed, just to discuss what we are doing tomorrow, just so we can answer those 100s of questions that you know you’ll get asked as soon as your child opens their eyes!
Group leader suggests we go to bed to conserve energy for the rest of the week. Most of us think its more appropriate to sit and chat about the funnies of the day and generally talk nonsense for a couple of hours. Who cares about tomorrow’s 7am get up? Sleep? What’s that?!"
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